Shopping is getting downright scary again. And this year, it’s not because of fights breaking out over some hot new toy on everyone’s Christmas lists. Even going to the supermarket feels dangerous.
It’s because of the coronavirus that’s trying to play Grinch and ruin the holidays this year. The pandemic keeps us practically locked inside most of the time and living in fear when we need to go into a store.
Once there, it’s not exactly anyone’s idea of fun. We rush through the supermarket… wearing masks… keeping six feet apart… and dealing with cashiers who have to be in contact with the public all day long.
It’s TENSE as we worry that even a quick trip out could expose us to coronavirus and lead to a COVID-19 infection. But how big a risk IS it to go into retail stores?
Two new studies are finally shining some light on the situation. And what they found gives us some much-needed guidance on what’s safe… what’s not… and how best to protect yourself.
How risky is your supermarket right now?
The short answer here is that NOTHING is 100 percent safe if it puts you in the company of others, especially when you are indoors. That’s just the reality of life in a pandemic.
But you’ve got to eat. So, the other reality of life in a pandemic is understanding your risks when you go to the supermarket and acting to reduce them. And that’s where two new studies offer a little insight.
The first study takes a sobering look at just how quickly an outbreak can spread in a supermarket. Of course, this was a look at a SINGLE supermarket, so take it with a grain of salt. But the study found that a fifth of the workers in that grocery store had the infection, and it wasn’t evenly spread out.
The employees who were out interacting with customers – cashiers and stock workers– were FIVE TIMES more likely to have the infection than their coworkers who were mostly in the backrooms.
Most of the workers DIDN’T have symptoms. On the one hand that’s good for them. They’re frontline workers, so they have to be in public. But it’s good to know most of them don’t suffer from the worst the infection has to offer.
But that’s where the good takes come to an end. Because, of course, these folks are in the supermarket interacting with customers all day long. And that means there’s a good chance of them spreading the virus if they don’t even realize they have it.
Reduce your risk by shopping SMART
The second study looks at the bigger picture beyond the supermarket, including bars, cafes, restaurants, gyms, and hotels. And it finds that in supermarkets, you can dramatically reduce your risk simply by timing your visits to ensure you’re there when it’s not crowded.
Plus, choosing stores with strict capacity limits, even if it means waiting in a carefully spaced line before going in, can reduce your risk too.
If you qualify, better yet, take advantage of the senior and immune-suppressed hours many stores still offer. The jury was out for a while on whether these special supermarket hours were an advantage. But there’s no question now that there’s lighter traffic at these times. And that alone could mean less chance of exposure.
Once inside, still wear your mask and keep your distance from others. And, of course, don’t forget there are two additional and even safer options. You can use a delivery service or order online and do curbside pickup.
Sure, there are some fees involved. But if you can afford them while this current virus spike is at its peak, go ahead and do it. Besides, you’ll save money on impulse buys at the supermarket, so it might even out in the end.